Work and life run together for Jaki Baskow

For just a few moments, Jaki Baskow looks like a crushed-out schoolgirl.

Earlier on this recent Friday, she received the electronic equivalent of a mash note from a secret admirer: A mystery man called her private cell phone, asking her to lunch.

“Whose number is this?” she asks, reading it to her friend and sometimes-business partner, Nancy DeGregorio. She doesn’t know and thinks someone is playing games. Forget about it, she tells Baskow.

But Baskow, 56, will not be deterred. Even though she’s in the middle of an interview, and lunch, she calls it. Still, she doesn’t get the man’s name and this riddle becomes a good chunk of the conversation; maybe it’s a long-lost boyfriend? Or a future flame?

Maybe it’s a wrong number, DeGregorio says.

It’s a far different conversation from the one Baskow was having only moments before, and a bit more personal, but it seems to fit right into the discussion about fundraising for a proposed women’s clinic, booking Al Gore for a speaking engagement in Italy and gift ideas for the dog’s birthday.

Mixing the personal with the professional is bound to happen with as much time as Baskow puts into her event and meeting planning company, Baskow & Associates.

Founded in 1976, Baskow started the company as a talent agency but it has since grown to encompass a full-spectrum destination and event planning branch.

She moved here from New Jersey as an aspiring, 24-year-old actress, planning to work at a new movie studio that ultimately was never built. After working for Telly Savalas, she started her business with a $300 loan, working the phones during the day and calling bingo at the Silverbird hotel at night.

Few people know that fame and fortune weren’t the driving forces behind her desire to be an actress. Baskow’s original plan was to move here and make enough money so she could hire a private investigator to solve her father’s murder. A tavern owner in New Jersey, he was stabbed to death early one morning outside of his business; Baskow was 16. The crime remains unsolved.

Forty years later, the Baskow & Associates CEO still can’t talk about it without tearing up. But it was the most defining moment of her life and shaped who she is today.

“I think your childhood is who you are,” Baskow says in her rich, vibrant voice. She’s a well-dressed earth mother who enjoys randomly dispensing stones with uplifting messages on them. She doesn’t believe in holding grudges and thinks there is meaning in every event. “You know, life shouldn’t be hard. It’s all about connecting and finding a reason for it.”

Considered by many to be one of the top star brokers in the state, Baskow became a Las Vegas mover and shaker by virtue of being in the local industry for so long and by building lasting relationships with people. Being persuasive helps, too.

“How many times has she gotten me involved in things even when I’ve said no, I’m not doing it?” friend Lorri Jackson, a senior financial adviser for Merrill Lynch, asks. “It’s just something about Jaki. She has a way of talking people into doing things without them even realizing it.”

Once, Baskow talked Jackson out of her sickbed and down to a comedy show where, despite Jackson’s intentions, she ended up onstage and on television, she recalls.

“She’s very outgoing, she’s just out there,” says friend Bill Pattison, director of catering for Palace Station. “You can’t help but get sucked in, she’s so approachable.”

When she’s not booking Sylvester Stallone or Sharon Stone for an Italian television show, or organizing celebrity golf tournaments for major corporations, she’s planning meetings for Microsoft or hunting down a Hawaiian band to play at a company’s pool party.

“My business is my life and I’m OK with that,” she says between bites of salad and edamame. Then she pauses and almost wistfully adds, “I’d like to find my soulmate.”

A relationship would be the perfect addition to Baskow’s life, friends say. She has everything she wants, save that special someone.

“I think she would love to have a significant other, an equal who’s really the key person in her life,” Pattison says. “She needs someone to share it with because she’s accumulated so much and I don’t just mean wealth.”

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.

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